March 30, 2013

Hancock County speller wins duel of champions

Brandon Aponte of Brooklin is crowned the Maine State Spelling Bee winner over Nat Jordan, last year's top finisher.

By Beth Quimby
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — Brandon Aponte, 12, of Brooklin won the Maine State Spelling Bee on Saturday.

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Brandon Aponte, 12, of Brooklin reacts to the news that he has spelled “crambo” correctly.

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

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Nat Jordan, an eighth-grader representing Cumberland County, spells a word in the final rounds of the spelling bee Saturday. Nat finished second to Brandon Aponte.

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Brandon, the Hancock County representative, who is homeschooled, won in round 47 by correctly spelling "crambo."

The win came four hours into the grueling competition, which ended with a roughly hourlong spell-off between Brandon and last year's winner, Nat Jordan, an eighth-grader at Cape Elizabeth Middle School. Last year, Brandon and Nat were the last two spellers in a 50-round bee.

The Maine State Spelling Bee, which is organized by MaineToday Media, includes the top spellers from 15 of the state's 16 counties. Husson College sponsors a separate bee for Penobscot County. The two winners will compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee on May 28 to May 30 in Washington, D.C.

All county finalists in Saturday's competition walked away with a Kindle electronic book reader, a $25 gift certificate for electronic books and a water bottle. The winner and one adult get a free trip to the nationals. The winner of the national bee takes home $30,000 in cash, a $2,500 U.S. savings bond and a $5,000 scholarship.

More than 100 spectators showed up at Saturday's competition at Hannaford Lecture Hall at the University of Southern Maine.

Woody and Christine Moulton traveled from Washington County to watch their daughter Margaret "Meg" Moulton, an eighth-grader at the Bay Ridge Elementary School in Cutler.

"She seems to find her poise," her mother said.

Meg made it to sixth place.

Some spectators said they came because they like spelling. Lan Tai-Neveux traveled from Shapleigh with her daughter, Candace Lee.

"My daughter is a good speller and I want to encourage her," Tai-Neveux said.

The spellers all had their individual styles. Some spelled while wiggling their fingers. Some spelled with hands jammed in their pockets.

Brandon looked off into the distance, while third-place finisher Alexa Eaton, 10, a fifth-grader at the Woodside Elementary School in Topsham, looked right at the judges.

Fourth-place runner-up Lexi Smith, a sixth-grader at the Appleton Village School in Union, delivered funny quips. When asked to spell "strudel," she said "sounds pretty tasty."

But Nat Jordan's signature scribbling with his finger on his arm was among the most unusual spelling styles.

Brandon Aponte's parents are Louise and Juan Aponte. Nat is the son of Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram Staff Writer Glenn Jordan.

In the end, it came down to Brandon and Nat battling it out over words such as "bastide," "sacerdotal" and "brankursin."

Brandon admitted he had never heard of "crambo," his championship word, which is the name of a rhyming word game or doggerel. "But I just pictured it that way," he said.

Other spellers in the competition included Ashley Breton of Tripp Middle School in Androscoggin County, Raleigh Toussaint of Madawaska Middle School in Aroostook County, Rowan Jellison of Strong School in Franklin County,

Charles Caldwell of Gardiner Regional Middle School in Kennebec County, Christine Hilton of Great Salt Bay School in Lincoln County, Phoenix Eastman of SeDoMoCha Middle School in Piscataquis County, Taylor Kruger of Molly Ockett Middle School in Oxford County, Jillian Thompson of Lawrence Junior High School in Somerset County, Clara McGurren of Lincolnville Central School in Waldo County, and Bryce Morales of Berwick Academy in York County.

The head judge was Michael Ashmore, grant programs officer at the Maine Commission for Community Service. Heather Davis, executive director of the Telling Room, and Steve Weigle, manager of the Riverton Branch of the Portland Public Library, were judges, and Jeannine Diddle Uzzi, an associate professor of Classics at the University of Southern Maine, was the pronouncer.

Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:


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Additional Photos

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Christine Hilton, an eighth-grader representing Lincoln County, giggles before spelling the word “muumuu.” She spelled the word correctly and finished 10th.

Tim Greenway

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Brandon Aponte, a seventh-grader representing Hancock County, smiles at family members in the crowd after correctly spelling “pretzel” in the early rounds of the Maine State Spelling Bee at the University of Southern Maine in Portland on Saturday. Brandon went on to beat 14 competitors to become the state’s spelling bee champion.


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